Clinical studies suggest that, in general, only half of all patients who are instructed to take a prescription drug still take it one year later, and as many as one-third of all prescriptions are never refilled.The cost of this sort of noncompliance is staggering. Studies estimate that noncompliance causes 125,000 deaths and more than $100 billion in increased healthcare expenses and productivity losses. Beyond that, pharmaceutical manufacturers lose about $15 billion to $20 billion annually in future sales from brand switching and negative word-of-mouth caused by perceived product failure—which happened because the patient didn't take the medication as directed.
But alongside those personal reasons, there is a breakdown at the pharmacy counter. According to a survey we conducted of 5,952 panelists, only 21 percent of pharmacists discussed with respondents potential side effects when they filled a new prescription. The survey also showed only one-third of pharmacists stressed the importance to patients of taking the prescription as directed, for the full duration, or whether or not they felt better or experienced side effects.
Meanwhile, less than 20 percent of those surveyed said someone from the pharmacy contacted them after the prescription was filled, and about the same number of respondents said their pharmacy notifies them when a prescription needs to be refilled.
The opportunities are abundant. More than 130,000 retail pharmacists work in 55,200 retail pharmacies nationwide. Mystery-shopping programs can provide insight and data to pharma companies on a wide range of possibilities for noncompliance, including pharmacist conversations and recommendations on particular medications. Ultimately, the information can uncover potential areas for pharma companies to direct their outreach and educational efforts.
In spring 2006, Corporate Research International sent 520 trained undercover auditors, all with diabetes, into pharmacies nationwide to collect information on pharmacist recommendations for glucometers and other diabetic needs.
When asked to recommend a glucometer, six percent of the pharmacists preferred the generic brand; the balance was split about equally between Accu-Check, One Touch, and other miscellaneous products. Ease-of-use was the number-one reason pharmacists suggested one brand over another.